#Arrow & #TheFlash: What Makes A Hero?

If you know me you know that I typically have nothing but good things to say about Arrow and The Flash and how they’ve (for the most part) treated the women on their shows well. But I’ve got a bone to pick with the Arrow and Flash producers and basically anyone else that cannot recognize a hero when they’re right in front of them.

This forthcoming rant began a few days before The CW’s TCA Arrow and Flash joint Heroes and Villains panel when The CW released a photo of Arrow’s Oliver, Diggle, Roy, Laurel, Merlyn, Ray and Ra’s al Ghul with the caption: “Got questions for the heroes and villains of #Arrow?”

Immediately the photo stirred some anger within the fandom about the absence of Felicity, Thea and Lyla and how apparently they weren’t considered heroes (or whatever Thea is at this point) because they don’t wear costumes. Later we’d learn that all of those pictured were the ones that would be appearing on behalf of Arrow at the joint Arrow-Flash TCA panel, which leads to the next part.

On The CW’s Arrow and Flash panel there were 15 men and just one woman (Katie Cassidy, a costumed hero). The fact that there was just one woman on that panel was not only infuriating but insulting and continues to illustrate how this is an industry powered by men. Executive producer Greg Berlanti spoke to The Wrap and other outlets following the panel about the issue that had fans fired up on social media.

“We should’ve had more women up here today. That’s on me. That’s my fault,” he said.

“We put the list together, and it was very much about costumes in the lobby, I think, or else people like Jesse Martin and Emily (Bett Rickards) would be here. But that’s on me. That’s my fault.”

Well, at least you admitted that you screwed up, Mr. Berlanti. Because that whole thing was a mess – how main female characters were sidelined for costumed male guest stars. I understand that the joint Arrow-Flash universe is freaking awesome and that they’re excited to tout new heroes and villains, but the other characters shouldn’t be neglected because they don’t wear costumes.

But that’s not what has me entirely riled up, no. It takes that issue deeper, and it was spawned by a quote by Arrow and Flash executive producer Andrew Kreisberg that has me wondering if these producers understand the definition of a hero.

“I wasn’t in charge of invitations for this panel,” Kreisberg joked. “We’re blessed; we have so many great female superheroes and villains. We have Caity Lotz, the original Canary, Katrina Law [as Nyssa]; we have Rila Fukushima who plays Tatsu, who will become Katana before the end of the season.”

“No comment on the fact that there were so many men here, but we really have the greatest, smartest, most kickass female superheroes of any show that’s out there,” he continued. “They really stand toe-to-toe with anybody. We don’t think about them in terms of ‘well, she’s a girl.’ It’s always, ‘Can you do it?’”

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Kreisberg that Arrow has some pretty kickass ladies. No one can touch them. But the fact that when discussing the female heroes and villains on Arrow Kreisberg referenced only those that are costumed and wear masks really irked me.

So Felicity and Lyla aren’t heroes because they don’t have superhero costumes? That Thea isn’t teetering on the edge of hero/villain status because she doesn’t share matching costumes with Daddy Merlyn? Or Felicity and Caitlin aren’t recognized as heroes because they can’t physically kick someone’s ass? That’s a heavy load of bullshit.

Being a hero is not about wearing a costume and a mask and physically kicking ass. It’s about what you do; the choices you make; the impact you have on those around you that define you as a hero. Both Felicity and Caitlin prove that day-in and day-out as they play integral roles in helping and protecting their hero and saving their city. They’re every bit as important to each titular hero’s crusade as the hero himself. Just as Lyla, Thea and Iris are capable of being their own heroes when it comes to defending themselves.

I don’t believe Kreisberg intended to suggest that Felicity, Thea, Iris, Caitlin and Lyla aren’t heroes (or villains), but the fact that the first (and only) female heroes and villains he referenced have worn costumes leaves me irritated. I don’t think these producers will make this same mistake again in future panels, including upcoming PaleyFest panels for Arrow and The Flash, and I really hope they understand why people like me are upset.

Because those characters – also including Diggle (who isn’t costumed [yet] but was at the panel), Joe, Eddie, Quentin and Cisco – represent everyday heroes. They don’t have a super skill or costume, but they save the world every day whether it’s in law enforcement or technology or science. They represent us – the doctors, police officers, firefighters, scientists, teachers of the world. They humanize these shows and bring a sense of reality to shows that are based on superheroes. They help us realize that you don’t have to be a trained fighter to save the world. Being a hero is about helping people. And there are many ways to do so, most of which don’t require a mask.

To quote Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim, “A mask does not a hero make.” I’m hoping that everyone involved with making or watching Arrow and/or The Flash (and any other superhero show or movie) understands that.

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment | Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes | Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters | Co-executive Editor for Fangirlish | Contributor for Bears Wire at USA Today SMG | Producer/Co-Host of Buffone 55 for Bears Barroom Radio Network | Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.